Gestures in Bharata Natyam


Abhinaya is a Sanskrit term meaning (abhi -'towards'; ni-'to carry'). Thus it means reaching a performance to the audience. The main aspect of dance, the four-fold abhinayas are Angika (Expression through body), Vachika (Expression through speech), Aharya (Expression through ornaments) and Satvika (the refinement of the soul).

Angika Abinaya is the use of gestures. There are slight variations in the numbers of gestures mentioned in the Natyasastra & Abhinayadarpana, but most of them have common names & definitions.

Head
Natyasastra mentions thirteen gestures
Abhinayadarpana mentions nine gestures

Eyes (No common names in the 2 works)
Natyasastra mentions three main classes gestures (The first two classes are further divided into eight varieties each & the the third class has twenty varieties.)
Abhinayadarpana mentions 8 gestures

Neck (No common names in the 2 works)
Natyasastra mentions four gestures
Abhinayadarpana mentions nine gestures

Hands (Both works mention 3 classes. There are several gestures with common names, but the no. of gestures in each class varies)
Single-hand gestures: twenty-two gestures with common names

Natyasastra
Single-hand gestures: twenty-four
Combined-hand gestures: thirteen
Nrtta-hastas: twenty-seven

Abhinayadarpana
Single-hand gestures: twenty-eight
Combined-hand gestures: twenty-three
Nrtta-hastas: thirteen

Total number of hand gestures in Natyasastra - sixty-four
Total number of hand gestures in Abhinayadarpana - fifty-one


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